Community leaders clash with public over controversial housing plans
- Credit: Archant
Community leaders were quizzed repeatedly on their strategy to oppose two controversial housing applications proposed for their town during a public meeting this week.
Framlingham Town Council (FTC) faced a very vocal public gallery at its latest meeting on Thursday when the issue of housing proposals for Fairfield Road and Mount Pleasant came up for discussion.
But despite repeated calls for the councillors to voice strong opposition to the applications, no such agreement was made.
Instead they decided to recommend that Suffolk Coastal District Council (SCDC) defer the Mount Pleasant application until Framlingham’s neighbourhood plan was agreed – the same response that was made previously to the Fairfield Road proposal.
The two applications, for a combined total of 263 new properties, are expected to be heard by SCDC’s north area planning committee meeting on Monday, February 16.
With FTC admitting its own neighbourhood plan, setting out a future vision for the town, would not be ready for at least nine months, some of the public speakers felt the council’s response lacked real meaning.
Christopher Sharpe, chairman of the Framlingham Residents’ Association (FRAm), which has protested against the development on the grounds their cumulative effect would harm the town’s infrastructure and change its historic character, was one who spoke.
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“The neighbourhood plan is not yet in place and the district council will make the decision irrespective of that, so what is the town council going to do now?” he asked.
“Will it press the district council to refuse the greenfield development as per the town council’s stated policy?
“This is the largest development since the castle was built and we want to know what the council is doing to protect the town’s interest.”
David Beal, another FRAm member who had been involved with the neighbourhood plan, highlighted concerns with Persimmon Homes’ revised designs for Mount Pleasant, which he said failed to address the previous objections to the application’s “urban” nature.
Also speaking in the public session, Gill Clare said she was “confused” about the council’s position and she thought its members supported the application but spoke in “neutral language” to mask that.
Council chairman Carolyn Young said her “personal opinions should not be brought into question” but added that she thought the town “needs to grow”.
Kevin Coe, the planning chairman, spoke in favour of the application, which he said was on a site already earmarked for development by SCDC.
Gary Kitching referred to the town council’s previous stance for Fairfield Road, when it recommended a deferral until after its neighbourhood plan had been put in place, and said the same principles apply.
“We need a plan before we make a decision,” he said.
“We cannot stand in the way of development but we cannot just throw development into a town like Framlingham, which is something of a treasure.”
The council members voted in favour of using the same recommendation as for Fairfield Road, apart from Kevin Coe, who voted against it.
Mr Shape, speaking after the meeting, described it as a “non-decision”.